A musical interlude: LMH study shows tunes relax patients

And it all started with the installation of a computer.

"One day, we just put on an Internet station for a little background music and a patient said it was a nice touch," Begin said. "The gentleman said the music was wonderful so we started doing it all the time."

Moffatt, who is on the Nursing Research and Evidence Based Council, said patients often come in feeling anxious about what's going to happen. That adds up to higher blood pressure.

"Everyone has to wait and if there's an emergency, they have to wait longer," Moffatt said. "The longer you wait, the more nervous you become."

Moffatt said patients arriving for a procedure are usually asked a set of medical questions before they are given a play-by-play of what will take place. They are then asked to undress and are given a warm blanket while they wait.

Vitals signs taken when a patient arrives and again before the procedure begins, however, show a clear indication of lower blood pressure and heart rate. All because patients are now given a choice of what music they'd like to listen to while they kill time.

So far the staff has done more than 100 surveys, asking patients if they want music and if so, what kind they would prefer. Blood pressure and heart rates are recorded pre-music and again before the procedure starts. Patients are then asked if they would recommend the music as part of the hospital's routine care and how the music made them feel.

The feedback has been encouraging.

"'The music was terrific and that made a huge difference,'" Begin read from one random survey.

Moffatt said it's not just the patients giving positive reviews either. Both doctors and nurses in the unit seem to like the music.

"It's very relaxing and it sets a nice tone," said Dr. Ira Michaelson, who has been at LMH since 1986. "My sense is that it helps the patients relax and get through something that's not an everyday situation. They're under stress, no matter how you approach it. For us, it's routine. For them, it's a stress."

Michaelson said once a patient is medicated, the music is turned down so it's not a distraction for the doctor. And, he's found he likes it, too.

"I go with whatever," he said. "I like the music of the '60s or some smooth jazz. As long as I don't have to sing, it's no problem."

The study is good news to Joan Vitello, LMH's chief operating officer, who said the hospital could change its procedures should the data continue to show positive results.

"I'm very proud of both Donna and Judy because they've gone above and beyond by doing this research study," Vitello said. "They're making it possible to enhance a patient's experience in endoscopy. The data does show patients are more relaxed."

Vitello said music is "food for the soul" and helps people get through a tough time.

"It's the fear of the unknown," she said. "The body sees any instrument entering it as a threat. Anything that reduces having a negative experience is a tribute to the [nurses] doing this."
 
Setting the mood

With a little help from Pandora.com, a free Internet music station, the staff in the endoscopy unit has been able to find most all music requested by patients - with the exception of Japanese music.

"There's one we haven't had yet," Begin said during a recent visit to the unit. "Until today, we've been able to find almost anything."

The most popular request is Frank Sinatra. Begin believes that's just because many of the patients they see tend to be older.

Younger people, she said, tend to lean towards gospel, country, Led Zeppelin and hard rock. There have also been requests for Irish music, big band, alternative rock and classical, but no hip hop or rap.
Andrea Bocelli is also a favorite.

And there hasn't been any request that's too unusual, but Moffatt has been surprised a time or two.

"We had one person who wanted Cake," she said with a laugh. "I told them they couldn't eat until after the procedure. Turns out Cake is a band."
For Begin, it's all about giving LMH another tool to attract patients who are finding their local community hospital offers many of the services the bigger Boston hospitals do. She said in just two years, the endoscopy unit has really grown and expanded.

This is just an extra special something that makes Hallmark unique.

"People are surprised they have a choice," Begin said of the musical offering. "They don't want to listen to elevator music. It lightens the mood and really sets people at ease."

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